Out of the office and onto the land

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By Ariane Kjellquist

“Redistribution of dirt and water,” is not a phrase I expected to hear on my recent tour of Old Haywood, a future Asheville Habitat for Humanity neighborhood. But it’s one of the first things Director of Construction Services Paul Reeves started talking about as we watched the excavator move with precision and he pointed uphill.

Before my visit to the Old Haywood site, I thought I knew what infrastructure and development entailed. Grading, running water and sewer lines and underground utilities, pouring sidewalks and paving roads. It is that– and much more. Going from site identification to construction is a lengthy and complex process; one that includes design, engineering, bidding, contracting and more. It is 2-3 years of work for a project of this size before we can even pull the first permit, pour the first foundation, or frame the first wall!

Within minutes of arriving on site, I learned that the soil being dug up to create a water catchment system near the front of the parcel was going to literally be moved up the hill, redistributed, compacted, checked by an environmental engineer, and eventually built upon.

I also learned that the environmental engineer will visit the site no less than 30 times during the infrastructure and development phase!

I learned too that working with the contours of the land can be difficult. As we walked the property it was evident that building a neighborhood in a mountainous region comes with unique challenges that flatlanders don’t face. Adding townhomes to the mix adds to the complexity. With the larger footprint of townhomes it is even more important that we have – or in this case, create – flatter lots.

And about the water…catching storm water and run-off and moving it safely across the site so it does not impact homes and foundations is part of the development plan, too. For example, an existing culvert will be replaced with a newer and larger one for better flow and performance.

Though I did not fully understand all that is involved in taking an empty lot to a thriving community until recently, I did know that Asheville Habitat has been doing this successfully for decades. Hundreds of families and thousands of individuals have built better futures on the foundation of safe, decent, affordable Habitat homes.

Unfortunately, there are still thousands in our community who need a decent, affordable place to live. And others may have a roof over their head, but just barely. 1 in 6 families in the U.S. pay more than 50% of their income towards housing costs and are forced to make difficult choices when it comes to other basic needs like food, healthcare, and transportation. Asheville Habitat is committed to empowering 1,000 more families to improve their housing in the next decade, and Old Haywood is one step towards this goal.

Old Haywood will be our largest neighborhood to date, with 98 units of affordable housing comprised of both single-family homes and townhomes. This is a bold step for us. But we have a history of being bold– and successful. We invite you to be part of a solution to our region’s affordable housing shortage. Give a gift, become a sponsor, volunteer to help us build, advocate for smart housing policies. Thank you!

 

ReStore Shopping 101

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By Marty Steinberg

“Shopping at the ReStore isn’t like shopping at other stores,” ReStore General Manager Scott Stetson reminds his staff members. “First time shoppers might not know how the green tags work or they might inadvertently walk into the work area. It’s our job to help them navigate the concept of the ReStore.”

It’s true: a first time shopper at the ReStore is generally amazed and impressed, but sometimes a bit confused. Will they have what I’m looking for? Where should I look? What do I do when I find it?

If you’ve come for hardware, large appliances or building supplies, downstairs is the place to be. The lower showroom also features rugs, office furniture and sporting goods, as well as a selection of new tile, vinyl, and laminate flooring and discounted energy efficient light bulbs.

Small items can easily be placed in a shopping cart but large items generally will have a green tag affixed to the item with a date, description and price of the item. The tags are perforated in the middle and if you want to purchase a large item, just separate the bottom part of the tag and bring it to the register. After you’ve purchased an item we can hold it for up to five days so you can make arrangements to pick it up.

If you’re looking for furniture or housewares you may want to walk straight through the lower level to get to the upper showroom. As you proceed to the upper showroom, you’ll see our “mission wall” along the right wall of the lower level and you’ll come to our “donor atrium” once you’ve reached the upper level. Restrooms are located on the left, just before the doors to the upper showroom.

Reconditioned mattresses, new metal bedframes and more LED light bulbs are available upstairs, along with Asheville’s #1 used furniture store (according to Mountain Xpress, Best of WNC) and a large selection of kitchen supplies, linens, lamps, artwork, electronics and jewelry.

On your right, just past the art wall, is the Silent Auction, where shoppers may place bids on some of the most interesting items donated recently. The silent auction recently passed a huge milestone: as of March 20, 2019 one million dollars has been raised since it’s 2005 inception!

If you keep walking back and look left you’ll find our bookstore: it’s a store within a store! Offering much more than just books, it has movies, compact discs, vintage vinyl and Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam memorabilia. You can even buy a cup of fair trade Guatemalan coffee or tea to enjoy while you browse or sit and page through a book. Proceeds from the sale of this coffee and tea, as well as Guatemalan handicrafts (also in the bookstore area), go to Habitat for Humanity Guatemala to provide coffee farmers with Healthy Home Kits (water filters, smokeless stoves and sanitary latrines).

A few additional tips will help you to shop like a ReStore regular – the kind of shoppers who bring a sharp eye and a pick-up truck when they come to look for bargains!

ReStore regulars know that they should jump on a bargain when they see it. Most people learn the hard way: you walk by an item thinking that you’ll get it on the way out, then you see it going by in someone else’s cart. Bringing a friend to watch an item for you while you ask a staff member or volunteer for help is a great strategy.

New products arrive every day that we’re open, so feel free to check back regularly. We are glad to help you find what you’re looking for on our sales floor: the one thing we can’t do is look through the work area where items have yet to be tested, researched, cleaned and priced.

We’re also glad to clarify a price if there’s any question, but we won’t lower a price on request. If an item sits on the sales floor too long – generally about two weeks from the date it was priced – we may decide to lower the price on our own, so feel free to check back on another day if an item you see is priced above your budget.

Shopping at the ReStore is a great way to stretch your budget, keep usable items out of the landfill and support the mission of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. In 2018, the ReStore diverted 1,800 tons of usable items from the landfill, provided 25 living wage jobs and raised funds to build affordable homes in partnership with hardworking families. The ReStore is able to have such an impact thanks to our donors, volunteers, staff members and of course, our satisfied customers.

To learn about the ReStore here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot changes in 25 years

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By Beth Russo

A lot changes in 25 years. Back in 1994, we were watching OJ Simpson in a white Bronco on CNN. Highland Brewery had just opened up in the basement of Barley’s

Members of the Lopez family, owners of the first Women Build house.

Pizza. And a group of women attorneys decided to sponsor the 1st Women Build house built by Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Fundraising flyer from the first Women Build House in 1994

The first Women Build house in Oakwood.

In 1994, the home cost $40,000 to build, and Buncombe County Women Attorneys took the lead in raising funds and providing volunteers to construct this home.

When they were done, the first Women Build house became the Lopez house, home to four generations of women.

Today, local women are still struggling with housing challenges. Imagine living in a rental where the landlord refuses to address the rodent problem. Or fix a leaky water heater, leading to monthly bills of $400. Or having to move your 3 children into your bedroom, to reduce their exposure to black mold.

This is the situation that Quintania Gregg found herself in. Employed full time with CarePartners, this mother of 3 children felt stuck with living in a substandard home because finding another apartment with a monthly rent that she could manage was almost impossible.

She applied for Habitat homeownership, and was approved to purchase Women Build House #14.

Gregg Family

Gregg Family

Once again, the Buncombe County Women Attorneys stepped up to be part of the solution to her affordable housing crisis. They’ve committed to raising $10,000 to support the construction of this home.

BCWA raising money at Rustic Grape.

A few weeks ago, they gathered at The Rustic Grape, a women-owned wine bar in downtown Asheville. After conversation and beverages, the attorneys met Quintania and heard her story. A few days later, construction started on the 14th Women Build house – and the future home of the Gregg family.

The BCWA are in process of raising funds, and look forward to a volunteer day on the site in June. Attorney Susan Russo-Klein of Roberts & Stevens says, “Buncombe County Women Attorneys are proud to support the wonderful work Asheville Habitat for Humanity does to provide affordable housing to families in our community.”

The 14th Women Build home will be completed near the end of 2019. Quintania looks forward to the day she closes and receives her keys, and is grateful to be partnered with women who care deeply about the housing problem in our community. Thank you Buncombe County Women Attorneys and The Rustic Grape!

Asheville Habitat Accepts Environmental Excellence Award

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By Andy Barnett, Executive Director

“What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”

― Henry David Thoreau, Familiar Letters (1860)

Asheville Habitat doesn’t think of itself as an environmental organization, so it came as a little bit of a shock to receive a 2019 Environmental Excellence Award from Asheville Greenworks this spring.  Our understanding of a safe, healthy affordable home is so intertwined with the notion of a “tolerable planet” that it goes unnoticed and unremarked.

Like most of the social justice solutions our community seeks, affordable housing and environmental stewardship are not competing interests. They are “yes, and” solutions. For example, your furniture donation to the ReStore diverts waste from the landfill AND builds affordable homes. When Habitat builds a new home, achieving high energy performance standards reduces our community’s energy use AND saves the homeowner money. Replacing an obsolete heating system in a home reduces the energy demand from our aging housing stock AND it means that an elder in our community can age in place safely and with dignity.

I am grateful for this award as a reminder of the impact of our choices, and a reminder that the best solutions solve multiple problems. As one of many like-minded businesses and organizations advancing environmental stewardship and sustainability in our community, I’m honored that GreenWorks bestowed Asheville Habitat with an award this year.

 

Photo by Angela Wilhelm, Citizen Times

A empty field to 21 homes, a thriving community

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Asheville Habitat is excited to announce the completion of its first neighborhood in South Buncombe- a 21-home community in Arden. Preliminary infrastructure began in the fall of 2016 and the last family bought their home, Student Build #4, in April of 2019.

Proud Recipient of the Parsec Prize

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Parsec Prize Winner 2019 Logo

We are thrilled to be one of nine non-profits to receive the Parsec Prize from Parsec Financial in 2019! Other winners were: OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling, Food Connection, Working Wheels, Asheville Art Museum, Susan G. Komen Charlotte, Arts Council of Moore County, Conserving Carolina, and Senior Services

The Parsec Prize was started in 2005 by Parsec Financial in Asheville, NC. The purpose of the Parsec Prize is to help local non-profits further their missions and improve our communities.

Asheville Habitat plan to use the funds to increase our capacity and expand our Home Repair program, a critical program that preserves existing affordable housing stock and enables low-income homeowners to remain in their homes as they age.

 

We’re thrilled to announce…

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We will open a second Habitat ReStore in Weaverville in late summer 2019! The ReStore will lease the space currently occupied by ACE Hardware who is moving across the street. Though smaller than the flagship Asheville store, the Weaverville store will offer much of the same merchandise – used furniture, housewares, appliances, building supplies, art and more. There will be a donation drop-off lane and plenty of parking. Hours will be 10am-6pm, Tuesday through Saturday.

“We are bursting at the seams, and have been looking for quite some time for an ideal second location. We are thrilled to have found this perfect site in the northern part of the County and look forward to being part of the Weaverville community,” said ReStore General Manager, Scott Stetson.

One of the first Habitat ReStores in the country, the Asheville Habitat ReStore opened in 1990 on Biltmore Avenue where it remained for thirteen years. After a major renovation of the donated Pearlman Carpet warehouse, the ReStore settled into its existing site at 33 Meadow Road near Biltmore Village in 2003. Today, the Asheville Habitat ReStore is a leader among 900+ Habitat ReStores nationwide, garners annual recognition as best Used Furniture Store (non-profit) in the Mountain Xpress’ Best of WNC, and has become a destination for shoppers across Buncombe County.

Details about a Grand Opening celebration will be forthcoming. Stay tuned!

Garland Walker Helps Habitat Meet Growing Community Need

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By Sydney Monshaw

Every Wednesday, the Home Repair team knows that rain or shine, Garland Walker (pictured above, R) will arrive at the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity office ready to spend the day serving the families of Buncombe County. Along with his coffee mug and lunchbox, Garland brings with him a steadfast commitment to building strength, stability and self-reliance. For 5 years, this Core Volunteer has spent every Wednesday helping to provide Home Repair clients with affordable solutions allowing them to remain safely in their homes. The Home Repair operations would not be the same without Garland, the repair team’s first Core Volunteer.

Garland and his wife Ellen moved to Asheville in 2013 from Juneau, Alaska where he worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Throughout his career, Garland worked as an attorney in varied capacities from the military to private practice, finally spending the most time managing federal fisheries with NOAA in the North Pacific. When he arrived in Asheville as a recent retiree, Garland was eager to find volunteer opportunities that would be enjoyable and would show a visible difference in his community. That’s when he found Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Initially, Garland volunteered building new homes, and on his third volunteer day, he was assigned to work with Joel Johnson (pictured above, L) in Home Repair. He found that he really enjoyed this aspect of Habitat’s efforts. Garland’s volunteer day has always been Wednesday and often it was just he and Joel working on projects for Home Repair clients.

The thing that Garland values most about working on the Home Repair team is its mission. “Home Repair clients are generally older and economically challenged. Home Repair is a “home saver” because it allows them to maintain and improve their homes either at a small fraction of the local market cost or sometimes at no cost. Their gratitude for our work is infectious. I go home each Wednesday grateful for the contributions I made and more conscious of the many personal blessings I have.”

Garland has also built lasting relationships with the Home Repair staff that he not only views as team mates, but as friends. Every Wednesday he faces new challenges that require varied problem-solving skills and he enjoys the fact that no two projects are the same. He is excited to learn new skills that he can use on his own home, too.

Garland recently received his golden hammer pin in recognition of 5 years of volunteer service. He is proud of this but views the accomplishment as a testament to the people, environment, and mission of Habitat that makes volunteers like him so willing to support the organization with their time, talent and financial means.

Over the last five years, Garland has seen many changes on the Home Repair front.

“I’m glad to note the recent ramping up of Home Repair staffing and funding. For this, I credit the excellent leadership of Joel, now the Home Repair Manager, along with the support of the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors. While building new homes is incredibly important and an original core mission of Habitat, the need for home repair assistance among the elderly and economically disadvantaged is steadily growing in this area. Despite the great work of the Home Repair team, there still aren’t enough local resources to meet the growing demand for this type of service.”

Garland recognizes the value of his volunteer work in the larger picture of the Home Repair program. As this arm of Habitat service grows, Home Repair is in need of more volunteers they can count on every week. To learn more about volunteering with Home Repair, click here, and if you are able, consider committing one day a week as a Core Volunteer. The Habitat team is grateful for all of the volunteers, like Garland, who help to bring the growing vision of the Home Repair program, and Asheville Habitat, to life.

 

 

 

 

Jane Schwarz: Making the World a Better Place

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By Zoe Trout

After spending “38 long hot years in Houston, Texas,” Jane Schwarz and her husband, who is an artist and musician, moved to Asheville. They were attracted to our City’s artistic community– and because being a vegetarian in Houston made her an anomaly.

While living in Texas, Jane volunteered on the construction site at Houston Habitat for Humanity. Now, you can find her at the front desk of Asheville Area Habitat’s administrative office on Monday afternoons answering the phone, greeting visitors, and taking payments from home repair clients. Jane enjoys interacting with so many different people and being close to the mission. She loves the excitement of people when they turn in their applications for homeownership because they have worked so hard to get to the point of application and they have so much hope for their futures. Jane always says, “Good luck! I hope you get to buy a house!”

Jane’s energy and enthusiasm is contagious and she believes in the impact of the Habitat model to lift up families through homeownership. “I think Habitat’s mission crosses political lines; and it’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up.”

Her passion for volunteering doesn’t end with Habitat. She is also a member of P.E.O. International, a women’s organization that raises money for scholarships for women all over the world; and she organizes neighborhood clean-up days in Fairview.

Creativity drove Jane’s professional past. She worked as an Interior Designer and at one point owned her own interior design business. She sold commercial wallcovering for part of her career, calling on architects and designers who would specify her product in large commercial jobs like schools, hospitals, and hotels. And, Jane loves remodeling projects of all sorts.

She continues to feed her creative spirit here in Asheville, by storytelling, regularly participating on The Moth, and taking a writing course through the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNC Asheville.

Jane always has a smile and a kind word for anyone who walks through the door and her creativity brings a burst of energy to our office.  When asked why she volunteers, she notes that her children are grown, she no longer runs her own business, and she finally has the time to get more involved and to give back more. With a deep belief in our mission, Jane said, “I think the world is a better place because of Habitat.” Well Jane, we think the world is better because of you! Thank you for sharing your time, talent and creative energy with us.